It should be a picture full of happy childhood memories, but instead it tells the tragedy of a community torn apart by horrific child abuse.
The photo shows the 4th grade class of St. Alipius’ Christian Brothers School in Ballarat from 1973. In the second row from the front, fourth from the right with his head tilted, is Philip Nagle.
Looking at the image today, instead of a smile on his face, only evokes feelings of sadness and anger as he claims that 12 of the 33 students in the photo committed suicide because of the sexual and physical abuse that occurred. place at the school.
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Philip Nagle (circled) claims that 12 of the 33 students in the photo committed suicide because of the sexual abuse that took place at the school
But Mr. Nagle believes that what happened to his deceased classmates will not be forgotten.
The 50-year-old was the first person to call a pedophile gang involving Catholic clergy in Ballarat on Tuesday at the opening of the Royal Commission on Institutional Child Sex Abuse in Ballarat in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
At the end of his testimony, he asked for a minute of silence to honor his 12 classmates. His only hope now is that more people will make public the horrific crimes committed on St. Alipius so that justice can still be done.
“As more of my classmates come forward, the fewer of them (in the future) will commit suicide. Because the ones who don’t come forward are the ones who commit suicide. Twelve of my class committed suicide,” Mr Nagle told Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Nagle said some did it indirectly after years of alcoholism and drug use because they couldn’t handle what was being done to them.
Mr Nagle, 50, was the first person to be called Tuesday at the opening of the Royal Commission on Institutional Child Sex Abuse
“Some didn’t even make it to age 50, others didn’t even make it to 40. They reach a breaking point and can’t take it anymore,” he says.
Some of Australia’s most notorious abusers, including Gerald Ridsdale, Robert Best and Edward Dowlan, were part of a pedophile gang that operated at St Alipius’ and St Patrick’s College.
Mr Nagle, 50, was repeatedly sexually assaulted by disgraced Stephen Farrell, a Christian brother at the school.
“He was our teacher then. Because Risdale and others were such serial offenders, Farrell flew under the radar,” he told the Daily Mail Australia.
Gerald Ridsdale was part of a pedophile gang that operated at St Alipius’ and St Patrick’s College
“Only three of Farrell’s victims have come forward – myself, my brother and another victim. From this he has 10 convictions. But because Risdale and Best had a lot of victims coming forward and Farrell didn’t, he came off lightly.’
Farrell didn’t even go to jail. He was given a suspended sentence of two years and three months for his violations.
“People like Ridsdale got a lot more because his offenses were so bad and more people came forward. But Farrell was also part of the pedophile ring,” says Nagle.
He knows other victims of Farrell but has been warned by the police not to go victim hunting and is not allowed to name them.
Ridsdale was jailed in 1994 on charges of being a pedophile for molesting children between 1967 and 1987
“I’ve talked to some of them, but they’re not willing to do anything about it,” he says.
What he endured on St. Alipius is burned into his psyche. Nothing can erase the horrific ordeal he had to endure at the hands of Farrell.
“He was too strong for me. I was only a boy of nine. He would just leave you alone, put you down and sexually abuse you,” Mr Nagle told Daily Mail Australia.
“You have to realize that we were just little kids and they were grown adults, so we didn’t have a chance.
“They were supposedly men of God in their black robes. Priests and Christian Brethren were more respected than your parents at that time, they were impeccable.
It all happened in a period of 12 months. We were terrified. It ruined our lives.’
Gordon Hill told the inquiry that he was taken to St Joseph’s Home in Ballarat in 1946 and was initially abused by a priest when he was only five years old.
He is still devastated that Farrell didn’t go to jail and believes that suspended sentences for crimes like this are simply unacceptable.
His comments came when Gordon Hill, 72, told the inquest Wednesday that he was taken to St Joseph’s Home in Ballarat in 1946 as a three-year-old and initially abused by a priest at age five, in a place called ‘the horror rooms’.
But Nagle’s fight for justice still continues.
“I don’t know what the investigation will bring unless they get some of these perpetrators to take a stand, but I was very happy with the trial,” he says.
‘In Ballarat we are called ‘survivors’. We come together as a group of survivors of this atrocity and try to help these other victims live.”